Skydiver Nick Halseth loves the moment when he’s not touching anything – not ground, not water, nothing. “And then it hits you, that you need to hit the ’chute,” he said.
The turbulence from his parachute’s opening and the tugging on his back remind him where he is and what he’s doing.
“And then you glide down, you’re concentrating and watching everything around you, as you get ready to touch down on the ground again, and it’s like nothing you’ve ever done before, and nothing you’ll ever do again.”
Halseth, 41, team leader for Lucas Oil Jump Team out of Minnesota , plummeted hundreds of feet through the sky for the entertainment of thousands over the weekend at the Quad-City Air Show, which wrapped up Sunday in front of a crowd of almost 30,000 at the Davenport Municipal Airport.
Fans were treated to an array of stunts, including trick aerial maneuvers from a variety of planes, races between jet cars and flying machines, skydiving acrobatics and other death-defying deeds.
While mild weather helped boost the total attendance to at least 45,000 for the weekend, the performers undoubtedly pump the blood through the event for the appreciative audience. Just think about how it feels for the performers.
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“It’s awesome,” said Neal Darnell, 65, of Springfield, Mo., who drives the Jet Truck, a custom-rigged pickup featuring a jet engine that can rip it down the raceway at up to 400 miles per hour. “I’ve been doing this now for 12 years, and every time is a rush. I’m going zero to 60 in a little over a second.
“Every time I get in, I make sure I haven’t forgotten anything: I check the brakes, I check the parachute, I go through a checklist and make sure everything is working because if it doesn’t work, that’s not good news for me. After that, it’s total concentration, because once you kick it and bring in that throttle and kick out that afterburner, it’s gonna be off and gone whether you’re ready or not.”
But in the end, the rush of the cheers and the pounding adrenaline keeps the performers going back, every time.
“You can talk about it all you want, and I can try to describe it to you, but there’s nothing like getting up there and flying yourself,” said Bob Doney, the most active flyer among the Illowa Sport Flyers, which brought the group’s light sport aircraft to the show. “Once you get up in the air, once you get someone up in that plane, it’s hard to get them back down. It’s hard not to love it.”